The New Zohar Shir Hashirim 658 זוהר חדש, שיר השירים, תרנ"ח is [seemingly] the first reference to the number of 600K (ס' רבוא) letters of the Torah corresponding to all the Jews (at least in the desert) and that each Jew has a letter in the Torah:

"דסלקין אתוון לשיתין ריבוא כחושבן שבטיהון דישראל דאינון תריסר וסלקין לשיתין ריבוא וכו'"

ובתרגום הסולם: עד שהאותיות עולות לשישים ריבוא, כחשבון שבטי ישראל, שהם יב' ועולים לשישים ריבוא, אף האותיות כן , כשהן מתמלאות עולות לשישים: אלף, בית, גימל....אלו הן עולות האותיות לשישים ריבוא כדי שתהיה שלמות בסוד האותיות בכל האברים.

Of course, everyone knows that in our scrolls, there are around 305K letters, roughly half of that (see the exact count here).

While I'm sure this could just be allegorical - etc, I'm curious if there are references to "the other 300k letters"? Eg, if each letter you also included its atbash (just as a suggestion), there would be a little more than 600k.

What sources try to resolve this discrepancy?

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    Interestingly, the source does not explicitly speak of the Torah scroll, it refers to "letters" in general, like "there are 600K letters". – Al Berko Oct 7 '18 at 13:49
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    Here you can find a thorough list of those sources (in Hebrew) forum.otzar.org/download/file.php?id=3950 – Al Berko Oct 7 '18 at 13:54

The founder of Chabad Lubavitch suggested that the vowels would be added to the count of 304,800-plus letters to reach 600,000 total.

Others state that the spaces between the letters for "white letters" that add to the count

Where Are the 600,000 Letters of the Torah?

600,000 Letters in the Torah?

Firstly, there are several non-standard methods of counting that will allow one to arrive at 600.000 letters. For example, the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, provided a different way of counting which is to count vowel letters that are not included in the text but are implied in the pronunciation of the word. If all these vowels were written out, there would be far more letters in the Torah scroll.

Additionally, there is another view that explains that the count of 304,805 letters refers only to the letters that can be seen in black ink against the white parchment. However, there are also letters in white against black. The heavenly, non-physical version of the Torah is described as black fire on white fire with both the black and white being equally as important. The black letters are those that we can see. The white space- the inverse space between the black letters- are the letters we don’t see and the count of 600,000 includes both black and white letters.

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    For all the alternative methods of counting you mention, did anyone actually tried to count the missing 295,195, or it's just speculations? – Al Berko Mar 18 '18 at 17:57

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky in Emes L'Yaakov refers to a concept that many letters are made up of other letters, for example an aleph is a vov and two yuds. He suggests that if we were adept enough in counting this way, we would be able to reach the correct total of 600k.

I saw that Rabbi Leff (in his book on Shemoneh Esrei) wanted to reinterpret the Talmudic phrase to be read in such a way that it doesn't claim that there are 600k letters. He suggests that the words יש ששים רבוא אותיות לתורה does not mean "there are 600k letters in the Torah" (which he says would have been more accurately expressed with בתורה instead of לתורה), but rather "there are 600k letters to the Torah," which he suggests means that, in addition to the around 300k letters of the Torah, the "Torah" of the Jewish people, made up of 600k letters, is meant to be added.

  • +1 for the Reb Yaakov. That idea from Rabbi Leff seems a bit strange. – user6591 Apr 13 '17 at 18:27

Yes, this question was solved in year 2003/2004 by Moshe Dodo ben Barzilai. At that time, he authored a method of gematria called Mispar haBeka, where each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is "split" into its component letters and then these component letters are added up, giving a new sum to each letter. The letter Alef is comprised of two yuds and a vav, so its value is 26. The letter Bet is composed of three vavs, so its value is 18. Gimmel is composed of a zayin and a yud, etc.

Later, in year 2008, an author by the name of Jeffrey Meiliken posted a blog article using a similar method to try to find the 600,000 letters of Torah. Although, his source for the frequency of each letter in the Torah was wrong and some of the number components he used were questionable, his count came very close to 600,000. This blog was noticed by Moshe Dodo in 2010. Moshe checked his prior method of splitting the letters for gematria against the actual letters of Torah and found that it added up to exactly 600,000 letters. He had the solution for all that time and didn't realize it. He then began a discussion with Jeffrey Meiliken to compare their solutions.

These are some caveats to the solution. If we are to assume that the 600,000 letters correspond to the 600,000 Israelites (not including Levi who was not counted with them), we would expect to find a bit less than 600,000 letters. The reason for this is that all of the 600,000 Israelites died except for Yehoshua, Caleb, and the families of Dathan and Abiram who "went down alive into Sheol". Since Yehoshua and Caleb eventually died in the land of Israel, there remained alive several of the families of Dathan and Abiram, who were Reubenites. The solution proposed by Moshe Dodo ben Barzilai accounts for this and identifies the letters corresponding to each member of the families of Dathan and Abiram; he provides the location for these letters in accordance with the blessing of Moshe Rabbeinu to Reuben: "May Reuben live and not die. And may his population [Dathan, Abiram, and their male heirs] be included in the count." That is to say, even though every other letter corresponds to one of the Israelites that died, some of the letters corresponding to Reuben were originally written in black ink but they sunk into the Torah scroll. And they should be included in the full count of the letters.

The evidence for the sinking of certain letters into the skin of the Torah scroll is found in the words of Elisha, the prophet. In fact, the entire solution, the gematria which is the source of the solution, and the author of the gematria, is all found encoded in the words of Elisha in the section describing the bears and the 42 boys.

Jeffrey Meilikin's blog article and proposed solution: http://kabbalahsecrets.com/?p=110

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thank you for your fascinating answer! Can you edit your post to include links to the various blog posts you mention? Thanks :) – Shokhet Apr 13 '17 at 16:16

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